Review: Tent Of David

“I wish I were Jewish. I just love the Jewish people!”

When some Christians learn I am a Jewish believer, they begin to gush their love of of all things Jewish to me. Some have stories of beloved Jewish doctors or accountants. Others share their deep political allegiance to modern Israel. Still others believe that they may have had a Jewish relative who hid his or her identity in order to survive the Holocaust or duck anti-Semitism in this country.

Of this group, there are a few who’ve taken these feelings and translated them into some sort of action, perhaps attending a Messianic congregation and/or digging deep into Jewish roots study materials. The more they learn, the more frustrated many of these well-meaning people become at how the big “C” Church (and usually, whatever local congregation they may have attended in the past) has moved away from her Jewish roots.

I may share many of those frustrations, but have always felt uncomfortable with the zeal and lack of humility among these brothers and sisters. Not too long ago, in fact, I met a Gentile woman who’d been attending a Messianic congregation and she told me with great pride that she felt she was more Jewish than I was because I attended a church. (Um…no.) Most of the Gentiles I’ve known who’ve embraced their Jewish roots aren’t quite that obnoxious, but the dissonance between what they’re learning on their own and what’s being taught and practiced in their churches can create all kinds of friction for everyone involved.

At long last, there is a resource to which I can point these folks, as well as to suggest to church leaders who may be navigating these issues with some in their congregations. Messianic Jewish believer Boaz Michael, of the Jewish roots teaching ministry First Fruits of Zion, has written Tent Of David: Healing The Vision Of The Messianic Gentile as a call to maturity to Jesus-following Gentiles who’ve embraced some form of Jewish roots inquiry or practice. Though a few Gentiles may find Messianic Jewish congregations are the community to which God has called them, most “Messianic Gentiles”, as he dubs them, belong in churches: “The Messianic Gentile is the most likely person God can use to bring the message of Yeshua’s Jewishness and the continuing role of Israel and the Torah to the believing members of the nations – that is, to other Christians.”

Unfortunately, some of these Messianic Gentiles become divisive and insufferable:

A Christian will be turned on to the feasts and festivals or to the dietary law, but instead of joyfully embracing the mitzvot, they grow resentful toward their communities, pastors, and fellow congregants. Instead of modifying their trajectory slightly to accommodate the new information they have received, they begin trying to change course entirely, and question everything. In a tragic display of controntational bias, these well-meaning believers become open to any new information –  right or wrong – that undermines their former way of life, while shutting out anyone who tries to keep them on course.

Michael’s message to these folks is that while he agrees that the church needs to change in some key areas, she is not the enemy. He tackles those areas (remembering that Jesus is Jewish, the proper valuing of national Israel, the kingdom message of the gospel) and addresses some of the undeserved criticisms that overzealous Messianic Gentiles have lobbed at the church. These include paganism, antinomianism, and doctrinal division.

Christianity is, has been, and will always be the locus for believing Gentiles. Engaging Christianity will in almost every case be a far better us of time and resources than trying to build an entirely separate edifice or plant a new kind of church, as Christians are already interested in the Scriptures and already have a connection to Yeshua.

The bulk of the book, then, is an apologetic toward loving engagement with fellow believers. Though Michael has headed a Jewish roots teaching ministry for years, he attends a church, and has had to live out the principles he shares in Tent Of David. Instead of winning debates about various issues of doctrine or practice, he urges Messianic Gentiles to honor their new convictions by living lives marked by winsome and humble service to their brothers and sisters.

Though the book targets a very specific audience, it struck me that the principles in the book would serve anyone who finds that their growing convictions about anything from home schooling to Calvinism to worship music styles to…well, you get the idea…would benefit from considering how to put self-sacrificing love into practice by using this thoughtful, well-organized volume as a playbook.

 

For those interested in learning more about past and present issues faced by the Messianic Jewish community, I’d like to commend to you Chosen To Follow: Jewish Believers Through History And Today, a collection of thoughtful articles on the topic, published by The Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies, the Jerusalem-based ministry with whom my husband and I serve.

 

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About Michelle Van Loon
  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    Michelle, you raise a couple questions for me: 1) When he writes “Christianity is, has been, and will always be the locus for believing Gentiles”, is he saying that the Christianity is not the locus for believing Jews? 2) Is his point also that the Church as Bride of Christ is a different Body from the one that believing Jews belong to?
    Thanks,
    Tim

    • Michelle Van Loon

      Good questions! In context, he was referring to the church. After reading the book, I believe he believes in one universal (small c) catholic (large C) Church, with many different expressions. Messianic Judaism is but one of those distinct expressions, and carries with it some different expectations of practice for believing Jews than believing Gentiles (a la Acts 15).

      There are some Messianic Jews who believe that the Messianic community is a completely different entity than the Church, but I did not get that impression from Michael’s book. I personally do not believe it is.

      • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

        Thanks for clarifying his take on things, Michelle.
        And on that danger of gentile Christians adopting Jewish ways, I recently read a blogger friend of mine was doing just that. The problem is not that they want to celebrate Christ in things like the Seder (I love lamb!), but that she and her husband are doing it because they think it pleases God more to worship in that manner and those of us who do not engage in that are missing his will.
        As if our actions on our own behalf could lead to pleasing him more than the work of Christ on our behalf already has!

        • Michelle Van Loon

          This book was written for folks like your blogger friend. Wonder if she’d be receptive to a link to the book or this review?

          • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

            I’d link it for her if I thought she’d take it well, but I’m not sure. She’s really young and more full of ideals than doctrine.

  • http://mymorningmeditations.com/ James

    I read this book almost a year ago and it contributed to the agonizing decision I made to go back to church. I’m not exactly sure what to call myself. I’m not Jewish (my wife is, though she’s not a believer) but I have an interest in Jewish learning. I went back to church after a long absence, in part, because I trusted the message in Boaz’s book. I’m probably not a typical “recovering Messianic Gentile,” either, though I more or less embrace the vision of Jewish/Christian relations presented by Boaz and his ministry, First Fruits of Zion.

    As far as the relationship between “the Church” and Messianic Judaism (this is just my opinion), because “the Church” has traditionally required Jewish converts to Christianity to shed all manner of Jewish identity and practice, it’s difficult for those Jewish believers who wish to continue identifying as Jewish in terms of identity and religious practice (Shabbat, Kosher, synagogue service, Talmud study) to operate within a traditional church setting. Although few in number (so far) and containing few halachically Jewish members, Messianic Jewish worship and community venues offer an alternative environment where devotion to the Jewish Messiah within a Judaism can be experienced.

    We can see the body of Messiah as a unified whole but containing two parallel and interactive populations (this is difficult to adequately explain in just a few paragraphs): Jewish and non-Jewish believers. We have equal access to God, salvation, and holiness, but differing (or overlapping) sets of responsibilities to God. Many non-Jewish (and some Jewish) believers can carry some of this perspective into churches to assist in spreading the vision I’m describing (and it’s important to note that Boaz practices what he preaches by attending a Baptist church in his community).

    I have weekly, private discussions with my Pastor over our different perspectives and it has been both rewarding and challenging for both of us. As I said above, I believe one of the intents of Boaz’s book is to carry a Judeo-centric vision of the Jewish Messiah back into the Gentile church in order to help in healing the schism between the Jewish and Christian worlds. Ultimately, when the Jewish Messiah King returns, it would be enormously helpful if “the Church” realized that they shouldn’t be expecting a Gentile Jesus to rule the world from some American church setting. I’m not trying to be snarky with that last comment, but it’s staggering just how little many Christians understand about the Jewish context of the Messiah and his original apostles and disciples.

    • Michelle Van Loon

      “Ultimately, when the Jewish Messiah King returns, it would be enormously helpful if “the Church” realized that they shouldn’t be expecting a Gentile Jesus to rule the world from some American church setting.”

      AMEN, James! I didn’t hear a bit of snark in your words. I heard truth. :)

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I remember you sharing a bit of your story with me a while ago, and I am grateful to hear you’re still working this out in your life. You are very right about how difficult it is for halachically Jewish people to maintain Jewish identity in a church.

      Michael’s words were an encouragement to me as a Jewish believer, just as they have been to you in your situation. He was pretty straightforward in the book about how hard it can be to have different responsibilities and convictions than those around you. It is lonely, but, as he pointed out, there is kingdom value in this.

      The church is where we’ve lived our faith in Christ, but I have had a profound sense of square peg most of that time. I recognize that this is because I do wish I could connect with a vibrant believing Jewish community with whom I can walk through each year’s cycle of feast, fast and worship. I also recognize that I can not insist that my local church function in that role.

      • http://mymorningmeditations.com/ James

        This is quite true, although I can see enormous value for the Gentile church if they would learn to “walk through each year’s cycle of feast, fast, and worship.” I think we’ve lost something including a connection to the Jewish Messiah we all say we worship and love.

  • william

    Sometimes, while traveling unfamiliar roads and terrain, a map or GPS device is helpful. Other times, on familiar ground or when on a motorcycle trek, a map is an unwelcome intrusion into the space of my personal adventure. Charting untrammeled paths is superfluous to my needs. Following the road less traveled, that’s where life is for me. And Jesu. And Gotama.


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